Kim Sengupta: A diplomat without diplomacy - but he made up for it in cunning

A senior Serbian official was left spluttering by what he considered Mr Holbrooke's high-handed behaviour

Share
Related Topics

A few weeks after the "liberation" of Kosovo, a group of foreign journalists opened a bar in Pristina which they decided to call "Tricky Dicky's", in homage to Richard Holbrooke, who had bestrode Balkans diplomacy with such prominence.

A little later Mr Holbrooke, on a visit to the Kosovan capital, paid a visit to the club and held forth with remarkable candour about the state of affairs. The Kosovo Liberation Army contained some pretty unsavoury elements, he declared – a surprising admission at time when the KLA was being portrayed by Washington and London as pure-hearted freedom fighters battling Serbian oppression.

Mr Holbrooke had always stressed that he had an empathy with journalists. Others experienced the less amiable side of the "Bulldozer". A senior Serbian official in Belgrade was left spluttering with indignation by what he considered to be Mr Holbrooke's high-handed behaviour – "arrogance and bullying... ultimatums no one can meet", the official complained.

Similarly an Afghan minister was shocked when he witnessed Mr Holbrooke banging the table as he demanded that Hamid Karzai agreed to a second round run-off in the national elections which had been tainted by fraud. The humiliating dressing down, the minister believes, was one of the catalysts in fuelling the Afghan president's feeling of resentment towards the West.

But it was not just the Afghans who were being affected by "Tricky Dicky" in Kabul. General Stanley McChrystal's groan in the Rolling Stone article – "Oh no, not another e-mail from Holbrooke, I don't even want to open it" – was a feeling shared by many of the US commander's colleagues.

The Afghan capital, at that time, had become a three-ringed circus with open rivalry between Mr Holbrooke, the US envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan, Karl Eikenberry, the US ambassador to Afghanistan and General McChrystal.

The last glimpse some of us had of Mr Holbrooke was at the garden of the Gadamack Lodge Hotel in Kabul one evening in the autumn where he was ensconced at a corner table supposedly having a discreet meeting with an embassy colleague. But he was surrounded by his personal bodyguards with their guns drawn. "Was this not a bit of a giveaway?" one of them was asked. "Yep," he replied, "but that's what the man wants, he's alpha one and he don't care who knows that."

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Marketing & Commnunications Executive, London

£30000 - £34000 per annum: Charter Selection: This highly successful organisat...

C# .NET Developer (ASP.NET, JavaScript HTML, CSS) Finance

£60000 - £65000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# .NET Develo...

MI Analyst-Reporting-Bank-Edinburgh-£260/day

£230 - £260 per day + competitive: Orgtel: MI Analyst-Reporting-Bank-Edinburgh...

Junior Database developer (SQL, T-SQL, Excel, SSRS, Crystal rep

£25000 - £30000 per annum + bonus+benefits+package: Harrington Starr: Junior D...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

August catch-up: The Hitch on Americans, literature, liberal intervention and language

John Rentoul
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi addresses the nation on the country's Independence Day in New Delhi, India  

With Modi talking tough and Sharif weak, the India-Pakistan love-in could never last

Andrew Buncombe
Ferguson: In the heartlands of America, a descent into madness

A descent into madness in America's heartlands

David Usborne arrived in Ferguson, Missouri to be greeted by a scene more redolent of Gaza and Afghanistan
BBC’s filming of raid at Sir Cliff’s home ‘may be result of corruption’

BBC faces corruption allegation over its Sir Cliff police raid coverage

Reporter’s relationship with police under scrutiny as DG is summoned by MPs to explain extensive live broadcast of swoop on singer’s home
Lauded therapist Harley Mille still in limbo as battle to stay in Britain drags on

Lauded therapist still in limbo as battle to stay in Britain drags on

Australian Harley Miller is as frustrated by court delays as she is with the idiosyncrasies of immigration law
Lewis Fry Richardson's weather forecasts changed the world. But could his predictions of war do the same?

Lewis Fry Richardson's weather forecasts changed the world...

But could his predictions of war do the same?
Kate Bush asks fans not to take photos at her London gigs: 'I want to have contact with the audience, not iPhones'

'I want to have contact with the audience, not iPhones'

Kate Bush asks fans not to take photos at her London gigs
Under-35s have rated gardening in their top five favourite leisure activities, but why?

Young at hort

Under-35s have rated gardening in their top five favourite leisure activities. But why are so many people are swapping sweaty clubs for leafy shrubs?
Tim Vine, winner of the Funniest Joke of the Fringe award: 'making a quip as funny as possible is an art'

Beyond a joke

Tim Vine, winner of the Funniest Joke of the Fringe award, has nigh-on 200 in his act. So how are they conceived?
The late Peter O'Toole shines in 'Katherine of Alexandria' despite illness

The late Peter O'Toole shines in 'Katherine of Alexandria' despite illness

Sadly though, the Lawrence of Arabia star is not around to lend his own critique
Wicken Fen in Cambridgeshire: The joy of camping in a wetland nature reserve and sleeping under the stars

A wild night out

Wicken Fen in Cambridgeshire offers a rare chance to camp in a wetland nature reserve
Comic Sans for Cancer exhibition: It’s the font that’s openly ridiculed for its jaunty style, but figures of fun have their fans

Comic Sans for Cancer exhibition

It’s the font that’s openly ridiculed for its jaunty style, but figures of fun have their fans
Besiktas vs Arsenal: Five things we learnt from the Champions League first-leg tie

Besiktas vs Arsenal

Five things we learnt from the Champions League first-leg tie
Rory McIlroy a smash hit on the US talk show circuit

Rory McIlroy a smash hit on the US talk show circuit

As the Northern Irishman prepares for the Barclays, he finds time to appear on TV in the States, where he’s now such a global superstar that he needs no introduction
Boy racer Max Verstappen stays relaxed over step up to Formula One

Boy racer Max Verstappen stays relaxed over step up to F1

The 16-year-old will become the sport’s youngest-ever driver when he makes his debut for Toro Rosso next season
Fear brings the enemies of Isis together at last

Fear brings the enemies of Isis together at last

But belated attempts to unite will be to no avail if the Sunni caliphate remains strong in Syria, says Patrick Cockburn
Charlie Gilmour: 'I wondered if I would end up killing myself in jail'

Charlie Gilmour: 'I wondered if I'd end up killing myself in jail'

Following last week's report on prison suicides, the former inmate asks how much progress we have made in the 50 years since the abolition of capital punishment